BUCKHANNON – Be on the lookout – the 2020 census is coming.
But Carol Cain Bush with the U.S. Census Bureau wants folks to understand the importance of the upcoming census.
Which is why Bush stressed to Buckhannon City Council Thursday night that the census counting process should not be bogged down with intimidation and fear.
“My goal is to develop grassroots efforts to get the word out that the census is a good thing, and it’s coming in 2020,” she told city officials. “I hope to do this by creating Complete Count Committees with trusted local leaders and county commissions, city councils and family resource networks.”
By creating these local committees, Bush said the groups will assist in reaching out to additional groups, agencies and organizations, which ultimately will spread the word of the census throughout the community.
So, why is the 2020 census important?
Well, U.S. Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and counts each state’s population and households, providing a basis of the reapportioning of U.S. Congressional seats.
The Census – or household and population count – is conducted every 10 years, and the first Census took place in 1790. According to a timeline on www.census.gov, 2019 is the year during which on-the-ground address canvassing (where necessary) takes place.
“The census determines the distribution of our $675 billion federal dollars for vital state and local programs, and it provides important statistical support for grant applications and community planning,” Bush said. “The Census impacts housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy.”
In the past, West Virginia has had a low response rate to the Census, Bush noted. Locally speaking, Upshur County had a split response; however, if you look at Buckhannon’s report, the city limits had an even lower response rate in the past than the outlying areas of the county.
“It’s the same thing in Randolph County,” she said. “Weston is about the same as their county (Lewis County).”
Another reason why Bush is pushing the formation of local Complete Count Committees?
As an employee of the U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, Bush believes the Census is most accurate and the process most effective when local leaders begin reaching out to the local schools, senior center, health department, law enforcement and “every segment of our community.”
“What I might suggest to the city is that it work with West Virginia Wesleyan College because we can count the students living in the dorms and in town,” she said. “It’s who is living in the city at that point in time. It has nothing to do with whether or not their parents claim them on their tax return, it’s just where they’re living,” she explained. “Or you might work with Main Street businesses and how to get creative with ideas about how to communicate and share with the community that the Census is coming, and it’s a good thing and we all want to participate.”
Additionally, Bush suggested that the city work with the local libraries, service clubs and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We have just a year to get ready, and it’s a lot … it’s letting the public know that we don’t want to know their private information. It’s just to give us a picture of who lives here and what the potential needs are. It helps us plan,” she said.
According to the Census Bureau’s website, responding to the Census is required by law. Responses are kept confidential, and according to federal law, the Bureau is only permitted to use responses to generate statistics.
(Read more answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” here.)
Despite the absences of councilmembers Dave Thomas and Robbie Skinner, council voted that the pair sit has chairmen of the City of Buckhannon’s Complete County Committee.
The official day of the upcoming census is April 1, 2020. For more information, visit 2020census.gov.
Before Bush’s presentation, a check in the amount of $1,200 was donated in honor of the late Jim Knorr, founder of the Buckhannon Community Theatre, toward the restoration of the Colonial Theatre. Last month, the Buckhannon Community Theatre itself donated $25,000 to fund the city’s efforts to revitalize the historic building in exchange for naming rights to the box office/foyer area.
After learning of the large donation, Judy Knorr, Jim’s wife, donated $864, the remaining funds in an arts account long-maintained by Jim Knorr.
“Judy asked me if she could contribute those funds toward our theater project in Jim’s honor and memory,” said McCauley.
The mayor then committed $136 to get the donation to an even $1,000.
“Upon learning of this gift, longtime Buckhannon Community Theater member, Keith Buchanan, and his wife wanted in on the gift too, so the Buchanans very kindly kicked in another $200 to make a new $1,200 gift bringing those contributions toward the Jim Knorr memorial foyer at the Colonial Theater to a whopping $26,200,” said McCauley.